BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — 2021 has come and gone, and somewhere in between that, we had quite a bit of weather slip, slide, and skid through the two Virginias. Way too much to cover in one article so we’ll just check out the highlights.
2021 continues a longstanding trend through the 21st Century of being much warmer than it should be, even with our definitions of “normals” changing this year. We’ll compare temperatures in two ways, based on the 1991-2020 climate “normals” and the 1901-2000 baseline in order to get an accurate look at how 2021 went. We’re going to focus on Beckley due to its central location in our viewing area. Keep in mind especially with the terrain in our region this won’t be a perfect match to everywhere but it will serve as a good baseline.
Our current set of climate “normals”, as they’re referred to, was released earlier this year to provide a snapshot of the climate of our area over the past 30 years. The data comes from 1991-2020 and will be updated again in 10 years. Compared to the current “normals”, we were only 0.9F above where we should have been when you look at the entire year. A few months we’re standouts in helping that stay above average, notably March and of course December coming in nearly 9F above “normal”.
To give some perspective and to compare this to a larger sample size, more data means more accurate results, another tool we use when diagnosing climate-related anomalies is the 1901-2000 baseline. This is an average of the entire 20th Century, temperatures, rainfall, and snow accumulations. A much different story begins to unfold here. Our overall anomaly for the year rises to a shocking 2.4F, 1.5 standard deviations from the mean. December also rises to over 10F above the mean when compared to the last century.
To tie all this together into a single point, it has been unusually warm. So much so that 2021 has tied for the 11th warmest year on record for Beckley.* 10 of the top 15 have occurred in the 21st century, 8 of those 10 have been in the past decade. The opinion that climate change is occurring has left the conversation on this point, the math doesn’t lie.
*NOTE: This is based on years with less than 15 days missing from their temperature records, anything more leads to irregular data. Records begin at Beckley in 1897, and out of the 124 years 86 years were used in this ranking.
Rain and snow were in short supply at times throughout the year, leading to issues with drought through the end of the summer and into the winter. Drought conditions came and went constantly through the year:
- May 25 to June 8
- July 13 to September 21
- November 30 to January 4
Drought was most apparent during the summer months where we saw some long dry stretches especially across our eastern counties which spent the most amount of time highlighted by the drought monitor. As of the beginning of 2022, abnormally dry conditions persist east of the mountains.
As a whole 2021 ended less than two inches below the average for Beckley, but other areas did not fare as well. Bluefield, the other only official climate site in southern West Virginia, ended the year over seven inches below the 1991-2020 “normals”. That deficit places Bluefield at its 18th driest year ever. Compared to Beckley, Bluefield ends up being the more representative of our two climate sites for how the year went.
TOP THREE WEATHER EVENTS
The StormTracker 59 team went back and reviewed our year in weather and picked out what we thought were the three most impactful events of the year in no particular order.
- June 13 Squall Line:
- Strong winds and heavy rains resulted in dozens of trees down across the region, and flash flooding across the area. Water rescues were perfomed in Frost as a result of the flooding.
- August 30 Flash Flooding:
- A backbuilding thunderstorm settled over the Wyoming and McDowell county border and sat for several hours dropping over 5 inches of rain over the coal fields. Four private bridges were washed out and countless mudslides and downed tress were reported as a result of the heavy rain.
- February 18 Snow/Ice Event:
- A widespread icing event occured across Raleigh, Summmers, Greenbrier, Monroe, and Mercer counties. This led to countless power outages and broken tree limbs. Some of the highest ice reports came from the Raleigh County Memorial Airport where 0.35 inches of ice accumulated. Anythiing over a quarter of an inch is deemed significant.